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03 March 2006
  Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice

Originally posted on Necessary Roughness on January 9, 2006.

I finished Anne Rice's latest work, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, on the Columbus to Houston leg on my way to Oklahoma City tonight.

The book is a fictional but plausible first-person narrative of Jesus Christ in his seventh year. His family, now extended with an uncle, aunt, and cousins, returns to Nazareth from their exile in Alexandria, Egypt, and rebuilds their house and town. Israel is rocked by the rebellion of the Jews against Herod the Great, and Caesar sends troops to put down the insurgents as well as some innocents.

Mary and Joseph continue to keep Jesus's origin a secret, even from Jesus himself. Herod the Great is killed, but they fear one of his sons, Herod Archelaus or Herod Antipas, might renew the search for the prophesied King of the Jews. Jesus is bewildered by the miracles that happen: when another kid strikes him, the child is struck dead, and Jesus, asking the child to wake up, performs his first resurrection. In another situation, he prays for the healing of his uncle, and it happens. He wishes for snow, which had not occurred since the Nativity (according to the book), and it falls. Realizing that he can do miracles, but not knowing why, he prays to God to only do things that the Father approves.

Jesus receives additional clues from a rabbi during the Day of Atonement, who informs Jesus of the prophecy and the ensuing slaughter of 2-year-olds and under by Herod the Great. His cousin/adopted brother James finally lets the cat out of the bag and tells Jesus about the Star of Bethlehem, the visitors, and the angels. Jesus asks Mary one more time with this information, and Mary finishes out the story with what happened to her.

Rice emphasizes Christ's humanity a great deal, to her credit. Jesus gets cut. He gets sick. He cries—no surprise given his grief over Lazarus's death in the Gospels (John 11:28-36). He learns new words in Greek. There is a moment where he feels sorry for the children who were slaughtered because of Him. He has no direct conversation with the Father or heavenly angels, but in a dream he talks to an angel who identifies himself as a prince of chaos.

There isn't much to offend theologically from what I can tell. Rice's Mary supports Semper Virgo but makes no comment on the Immaculate Conception. According to the Gospels the first miracle performed by Jesus was the turning of water into wine at Capernaum (verse 11 of John 2:1-11). The early miracles are drawn from the Apocrypha and other legends. There is also not much foreshadowing into the Gospels, though there is one entertaining incident where the women of the family discuss the political influences that determine who the next high priest will be when the next Herod assumes the throne. They figure Caiaphas will be the next high priest, borne out in Matthew 26 and John 18.

Anne Rice writes very conversationally in this book, emphasizing the youth of the first-person narrator. When a miracle occurs Jesus describes it as "power flowing out of me". There were no complex plot twists; Jesus getting sick garnered most of my surprise. The book is an interesting interpretation of what could have happened between the return from Egypt and the 12-year-old showing up in the Temple going about his Father's business. Rice doesn't preach a course of action but just tells a story, which could explain her success with other subjects.

Recommended for everyone.

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